Deep massage to posterior calf muscles in combination with neural mobilization exercises as a treatment for heel pain

Plantar heel pain syndrome (PHPS) is a common foot disorder; although, there is not much clinical evidence on which to base treatment. Repeated clinical observations indicating heel pain during heel rise and minisquat on the affected leg, involving activation of posterior calf muscles, formed the basis of this study. The aim of this study was to compare deep massage therapy to posterior calf muscles and neural mobilization with a self-stretch exercise program (DMS) to a common treatment protocol of ultrasound therapy to the painful heel area with the same self-stretch exercises (USS). Patients with PHPS were assigned to a program of 8 treatments over a period of 4-6 weeks in a single-blind randomized clinical trial. Functional status (FS) at admission and discharge from therapy as measured by the Foot & Ankle Computerized Adaptive Test was the main outcome measure. Sixty-nine patients were included in the trial (mean age 53, standard deviation (SD) 13, range 25-86, 57% women), 36 received DMS treatment and 33 with USS. The overall group-by-time interaction for the mixed-model analysis of variance (ANOVA) was found statistically significant (p=0.034), with a change of (mean (confidence interval, CI)) 15 (9-21) and 6 (1-11) FS points for the DMS and USS groups, respectively.

The data examined by this study suggested that both treatment protocols resulted in an overall short-term improvement, however, DMS treatment was significantly more effective in the treatment PHPS than USS treatment.